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M.L. Sondhi and Ashok Kapur

The military campaign of the United States of America against Saddam Hussein's Iraq is the first major step in a new American plan to develop a road map for Iraq, the West Asian region and the world. It is an ambitious plan and it is built on a philosophy of liberation, not containment of threats as was the case during the Cold War. It is meant to deal with, on the one hand, the great powers like Russia, China, the continental Europeans, and India, and on the other, the rogue states and rogue forces like Iraq, North Korea and the al Qaida.

The radically new approach is based on the view that countries which are not integrated into the forces of globalization in its economic, cultural and strategic sense are sources of terror and insecurity. So the new American worldview divides the world into three categories - first, those who are integrated into globalization; North America, Europe and India, and are not going to be objects of American military intervention. The second, those who are not tied to globalization and require various forms of American intervention. While the globalized world constitutes the core, the second is the periphery unconnected with the thought processes and institutional arrangements of the core world of globalization. This chasm is the basis of the fundamental cultural and economic divide between the two worlds. The second world extends from the Caribbean, through much of Africa, the Balkans, Caucasus, central Asia, southeast Asia, and much of west Asia (except Israel, considered a much needed bully in a dangerous neighbourhood) and North Africa.

The third category consists of countries which straddle the line between the core and the periphery. The list includes North Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, possibly South Africa, Greece and Thailand. In recent history many of these countries - like Indonesia and Philippines - were connected to the core world but slipped to the third category.

Fear is the element which shapes the policies of the key members of the three worlds but its nature varies. For the US, it is a fear the second world may gain ground and reduce its power and authority. For the autocratic, monarchical and unrepresentative regimes of west Asia and the other regions of the second world, it is the fear of losing power and money to the angry masses. The fear is as real to the Saudis as it is to the Egyptians and Syrians. The fear of unpleasant change is thus the context of the US military strategy.

Although the US military campaign is likely to succeed against Saddam Hussein, the fallout will be significant. The movement of the peoples from the war zone has started and this will strain Iraq's resources. The United Nations and Japan have already begun humanitarian aid, and Turkey wants to move militarily into northern Iraq to guard its interests with the Kurds. Second, Iraq is deeply divided between Shias, Sunnis and Kurds and it has no democratic tradition. So US plans to introduce democracy will require a prolonged presence in the country. Third, many thrones in west Asia, including American allies like Jordan, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia will be thinking about the operation's effect on their power and wealth.

Fourth, democracy is likely to produce a backlash from fundamentalists and produce more al Qaidas. Finally, although the campaign is directed against Saddam's rogue regime, the Bush administration's diplomacy has been rough and challenges the regional interests of Russia, China, France and Germany. Long term American military presence in Iraq would be a source of much discomfort for them. Vladimir Putin has already declared publicly that the American invasion is a sign of the UN's quest for world domination. The issue now is not one of Iraqi disarmament, but about regional and global geo-politics.

What is the likely fallout for India? It needs to look at two directions: China and the US. Although Pakistan is in the third category in American calculation, it has several advantages. First, the Pakistanis are skilled in using American fears to their advantage and also understand the American military mind. Second, Pakistan is an ally in the US's campaign against terrorism. Third, the US fears that Pakistan may slip into Islamic fundamentalism. The election of Islamist leaders in the North West Frontier Province and Baluchistan is already worrying it. Finally, Pakistan has a cozy relationship with Beijing which it likes because that helps it keep up the pressure on India.

One should expect that Beijing will use the volatility of the Iraq war to step up its nuclear and missile transfers to Pakistan and to further tighten its grip of Tibet. Beijing will also try to get closer to Russia, France and Germany, citing the problem with American hegemony.

But should India adopt a defeatist stance in this scenario? Certainly not, because having successfully completed five years in office as the leader of a coalition government, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his colleagues have shown that if they avoid washing their dirty linen in public and manage to grasp the meaning of the new American strategy, India can play an important role in world affairs. Between west Asia and southeast Asia, India dominates the military and cultural communications and can further build its ties with Russia and France as also the neighbours in the Gulf and southeast Asia.

Indian practitioners may also keep in mind that the Pakistan military does not control much of Pakistan's military and ideological space. The political space is shared with the Islamists and al Qaida operators in the frontier regions. Its diplomatic space is controlled by the US government which places its anti-terrorism requirements on Pervez Musharraf in return for lifting sanctions and providing financial aid. Its nuclear and missile programme is managed by the Chinese who would not like their ordinance with Chinese markings to reach American hands. In another way, its nuclear power is also compromised by the fact that the Americans will take control over Pakistan's missile capabilities in case of a danger of losing it to terrorists.

Finally, India has to realize that China has several fundamental problems. Under the fašade, China is running many internal campaigns which are confusing. Its economic reforms have the potential of creating unemployment and social unrest. Its new leaders are young but still believe in the old socialist processes. And its expertise in foreign matters is limited. For instance, China has very few experts on India in its academies and government. The Chinese communist party is still corrupt and lives off the masses although it has the decision-making power. The Chinese military has lost its position as the people's army and is now preoccupied with fighting a high technology war with the US over Taiwan. It is deceiving itself by thinking that stealth and deception can enable the inferior Chinese forces to defeat the strong American forces. As India competes with China in the political, economic and military areas it will discover that its competitor has major weaknesses.

To take advantage of the prevailing balance of power, India needs to not only analyse diplomatic gambits but develop a new strategy of comprehensive engagement in line with its basic values and long-term interests.

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